“Cabbagetown: 3 Women” Plays to a Rapt Audience

Sarah Knight as Aunt Beadie, Karen Tanner as Lila Brookshire, Kim Cohran as Effie Gray

CABBAGETOWN, ATLANTA

Over the course of two, September weekends in 2019, The Patch Works Art & History Center (The Patch Works) — in collaboration with the Cabbagetown Neighborhood Improvement Association (CNIA) and the Cabbagetown Initiative Community Development Corporation (CICDC) — revived Cabbagetown: 3 Women… an Oral History Play With Music, 41 years after its premiere at Atlanta’s Academy Theatre on May 21st, 1978.

Cabbagetown: 3 Women was written in 1977-1978 by R. Cary Bynum, shortly after his wife Brenda had presented him with an obscure cookbook entitled Cabbagetown Families, Cabbagetown Food. The cookbook was published in 1976 by Patch, Inc. (edited by Pam Durban, who went on to become an award-winning novelist) and contained oral-history transcripts of several Cabbagetown “Original” residents, three of whom Mr. Bynum chose for his play. Cabbagetown: 3 Women places the spotlight on the lives of three, real-life women: Lila Mae Brookshire (Joyce Brookshire’s mother), Effie Dodd Gray, and Beatrice “Aunt Beadie” Dalton. As Mr. Bynum writes in Foxfire Press’ 1984 edition of the play, he took the words of Lila, Effie, and Aunt Beadie “and arranged them into a dramatic format, careful to preserve as much of the original language as possible.”

Throughout the show, the three women talk about their backgrounds, daily routines, working at the mill, feeding their families, and dealing with life in the mill-village streets. As they explain early in the show, Cabbagetown (or Cabbage Town) was not the neighborhood’s true name, but instead a somewhat offensive nickname given to the inner-city community by outsiders for various different reasons.

In 1881, a new and eager workforce — many of Scotch-Irish descent — came down from the North Georgia Mountains and Piedmont to work at Atlanta’s recently opened Fulton Cotton Spinning Company, which was founded by a German-Jewish immigrant named Jacob Elsas. In order to house the workers, Jacob constructed rows of mill homes, originally known as Factory Lot. Years later, as the mill prospered and changed its name to Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills, the community also grew and became Fulton Mill Village. According to today’s Originals, the nickname of Cabbagetown didn’t gain widespread popularity until the 1940s or even 1950s, and even then, quite a number of local residents refused to use the name.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Patch, Inc. was a Cabbagetown-based, nonprofit organization that provided socioeconomic support, creative outlets, and educational opportunities for the residents. It had a core staff of nine people and a Board that included founder Esther Peachey Lefever, Joyce Brookshire, Leon Little, Robert Price, and Dr. Louis Jacob (“Skip”) Elsas. Publishing Cabbagetown Families, Cabbagetown Food was the Patch’s way of preserving some of the unwritten tales about Cabbagetown, and when Mr. Bynum approached the organization with the concept for his play, the Patch warmly received the idea. Joyce Brookshire, a singer/songwriter and long-time resident of Cabbagetown, offered some of her songs to the production.

The original cast included: Doris Bucher, Annette Coleman, and Brenda Bynum. Joyce herself performed the music. As the Alliance Theatre wrote in its program for the 1979 presentation of the play, “Live music is movingly woven into the performance by Joyce Brookshire, accompanied by Fritz Rauschenberg, with songs she wrote about the families with whom she grew up, and originally were published in Foxfire Records premiere album, North Georgia Mountains.”

Cabbagetown: 3 Women is a heartfelt, sometimes comical, anecdotal play that celebrates the identities of a people in a tightly woven community.

Changes to Hours on These September Dates…

Please note that on the following dates, The Patch Works will be adjusting its hours:

On Sunday September 15th and 22nd, the center will be closed, due to our 2:00pm Matinee presentations of the play Cabbagetown: 3 Women, which is taking place at Cabbagetown Park’s Joyce Brookshire Amphitheater.

The center will be closing early, at 5:00pm, on Friday September 13th, Saturday September 14th, Friday September 20th, and Saturday September 21st, also due to Cabbagetown: 3 Women, which has 8:00pm showtimes on those nights. All six shows are free and open to the public.

In addition, please note that the center will be closed on Sunday September 29th, as The Patch Works will be participating in Oakland Cemetery’s Sunday in the Park. This event is also free and lots of fun, so please swing by and visit our tent!

“Cabbagetown: 3 Women” — Coming Soon!

The Patch Works Art & History Center (The Patch Works) — in collaboration with the Cabbagetown Neighborhood Improvement Association (CNIA) and the Cabbagetown Initiative Community Development Corporation (CICDC) — revives Cabbagetown: 3 Women… an Oral History Play With Music, 41 years after its premiere at Atlanta’s Academy Theatre on May 21st, 1978.

PERFORMANCES
 FINAL DRESS REHEARSAL (Open to the Public): Thursday, September 12th, 8:00P
 Evenings
 OPENING NIGHT: Friday, September 13th, 8:00P
 Saturday, September 14th, 8:00P
 Friday, September 20th, 8:00P
 Saturday, September 21st, 8:00P
 Matinees
 Sunday, September 15th, 2:00P
 Sunday, September 22nd, 2:00P
WHERE
 Joyce Brookshire Amphitheater
 Cabbagetown Park
 170 Kirkwood Ave SE, Atlanta GA 30316

Performances are free and open to the public. There will be beverages and souvenir stands where attendees may purchase items.

Cabbagetown: 3 Women, an Oral History Play With Music was adapted by R. Cary Bynum from “actual dialogues originally compiled by the Patch, Inc., and published in Cabbagetown Families, Cabbagetown Food, edited by Pam Durban Porter.” The play profiles the lives of three women, who were long time residents of Cabbagetown: Lila Mae Brookshire (Joyce Brookshire’s mother), Effie Dodd Gray, and Beatrice “Aunt Beadie” Dalton. The original cast included Doris Bucher, Brenda Bynum, and Annette Coleman.

“Live music [was] movingly woven into the performance by Joyce Brookshire, accompanied by Fritz Rauschenberg, with songs she wrote about the families with whom she grew up, and originally were published in Foxfire Records premiere album, North Georgia Mountains.” (produced in 1977)

(Source: an Alliance Theatre program from the play’s performance on September 12, 1979)

This presentation is funded in part by a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.